LAUSD Schools Face Bankruptcy While Charters Cheat on Admissions

Through admissions policies that exclude vulnerable students by erecting various barriers to entry, charter schools have the potential to create a two-tiered system of public education.

- ACLU and Public Advocates

The LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) says that “a review of charter school pre- and post-enrollment forms is part of our oversight process”.  It is, therefore, unclear how these regulators missed the fact that both Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) and El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) have admission requirements that appear to violate LAUSD policy, their respective charters, the California Education Code and federal law. These organizations rely on public funds to operate but appear to be screening out students who should have a right to attend. Some examples of this cherry-picking are as follows:

Homeless Students:

According to the LAUSD CSD’s own documentation, “charter schools are required to adhere to the provisions of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act and ensure that each child of a homeless individual and each homeless youth have equal access to the same free, appropriate public education as provided to other children and youths.” Under this federal law, students who are homeless have a right "to enroll in the public school serving the attendance area of their temporary residence." Therefore, GHCHS policies requiring a "DWP Bill and [a] Gas Bill" and "parent/guardian driver's license with the residential address" is improper as it provides a barrier to enrollment for students without a permanent address.

The policies at ECRCHS are even more stringent as they require "three consecutive months of original current gas AND electric bills with the same parent name and address at the top of the bill" and "parent/guardian identification [that] must match proof of residential address". More troublesome is the policy that states that "ECRCHS DOES NOT ACCEPT SHARED RESIDENCES OR ROOM RENTALS". This violates the rights of students whose economic situation dictates that they must accept these types of living situations.

National Origin:

According to the CSD’s own documentation, charter schools “cannot require students to submit [information about their birthplace] as a condition for admission without violating Education Code § 47605” which"requires charter schools to admit all pupils who wish to attend the school and prevents charter schools from discriminating against any student on the basis of those characters identified, including nationality." Requiring a birth certificate "prior to admission raises concern that the practice may have a discriminatory impact on certain groups of students (those born outside of the U.S.) by discouraging them from enrolling." Contrary to these prohibitions, GHCHS and ECRCHS require a parent or guardian to provide a birth certificate before a student is enrolled.

Foster Children:

GHCHS requires a student’s immunization records as part of the pre-enrollment process. ECRCHS requires an “up-to-date, detailed proof of immunizations (vaccine record)”. Both of these policies violate “California law [which] requires schools to immediately enroll foster children transferring to their school even if a foster child is unable to produce immunization records normally required for school entry.” These policies also violate the McKinney-Vento that requires “schools to enroll new students who are homeless even if their immunization records are missing or unavailable at the time of enrollment.”

Lower-Achieving Students:

Despite requirements cited by the CSD stating that "a student’s grades should have no bearing on whether or not a student is admitted", both charters require the submission of student report cards prior to enrollment. This “practice may have an impact on certain groups of students (e.g., lower achieving students) by discouraging them from submitting an application to enroll at the school. It also creates an inference that the charter school may be improperly screening out lower achieving students to increase student performance statistics.

Students with Special Needs:

Under the subsection "Non-Discrimination", the charter renewal petitions of both schools state that the "charter school shall not request or require submission of a student’s IEP, 504 Plan, or any other record or related information prior to admission, participation in any admissions or attendance lottery, or pre-enrollment event or process, or as a condition of admission or enrollment." Therefore, the GHCHS requirement that “the most recent 504 plan or IEP” be submitted prior to enrollment is a violation of the charter. The same is true for ECRCHS’ requirement that the "most recent IEP must be provided before enrollment can be completed". These policies also violate students’ federal guarantee of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as they provide improper barriers to enrollment for students with disabilities.

ECRCHS runs further afoul of the law with a stipulation that "an interim placement is required. NO EXCEPTIONS". This gives the appearance that conditions are being placed on the acceptance of the IEP plan that may alter the conditions of the legally binding document that was carefully constructed in a meeting between parents and professionals involved in a child’s education. In order to make these changes legally, the IEP must be reopened in a formal setting.

 

It is important to note that even if GHCHS and ECRCHS make exceptions to their policies, they are still violating the law as these policies give the “appearance of bias”. In the past, GHCHS has claimed that they were not in violation of the law that allows parents to opt-out of standardized testing because they did not enforce the punishments outlined in the Parent-Student Handbook. However, this type of loophole does not exist in cases of alleged discrimination because the act of persuading these students not to apply by improperly stating that these documents are required prior to registration also violates their rights.

The cherry picking of students also harms those students enrolled in public schools. The LAUSD faces bankruptcy “in upcoming years because it faces a cumulative deficit of $1.46 billion through the 2018-2019 school year“, in part because of the loss of students to the charter industry. This is made worse when a high percentage of the students left behind are more expensive to educate than the students the charters have accepted. The excluded students also have the most to lose since they will have no place to flee if the LAUSD is forced into financial ruin because charters are using improper admission policies. The LAUSD Board must, therefore, demand that the Charter School Division perform their regulatory function and ensure compliance with the law.

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